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Southern Hardwood Swamp Scene,
Herman Herzog (1832 – 1932)

View Artist Bio
Oil on canvas
22 x 26 inches
Signature Details: H-Herzog
Status: Private Collection, Florida

His faculty of catching, at a glance all that is characteristic in the motive before him, of choosing the most effective illumination, and even the most favorable season and time of day, assisted by a rapidity of execution which enables him to seize and fetter the most transient phenomena of light and shade . . .  amounts to genius, and makes his pictures unique among landscapes.1

In these glowing works, a reviewer for the Philadelphia Press in 1885 regaled the paintings of Herman Herzog. The anonymous writer singled out qualities that characterize the enduring appeal of Herzog's paintings.

Herzog was born on November 16, 1831,2 in the Free Hanseatic State of Bremen, and entered the art academy in Düsseldorf at age seventeen.3 The most influential of his teachers was Andreas Achenbach (1815-1910), who was well known for his dark, stormy seascapes as well as his scenes of Norway's water-choked, rocky gorges. While a student, Herzog traveled a great deal, visiting Norway, Belgium, Holland, Bavaria, Switzerland, and Italy. The memories of the rugged aspects of those places remained with him for many years, and he continued to paint them after his move to the United States.

While yet a young painter he was patronized by Queen Victoria, Grand Duke Alexander of Russia, the Grand Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, and the Countess of Flanders. Indeed, his work was praised in Europe long after he had settled in the United States.  The Bremen News reported on March 19, 1886, "Quite apart in its individuality is a magnificent Norwegian Waterfall, by our countryman H. Herzog, whose works are, unfortunately, so rarely to be seen here."4

Herzog had moved to the United States in the late 1860s when it was certain that Bremen was to be annexed to Germany. After a brief residency in New Jersey he settled in West Philadelphia.  He found a wealth of subjects for his canvasses in both states. He was particularly fond of Dingman's Ferry, a picturesque spot in the Delaware Water Gap, but he also ventured to the West on several trips after 1880 as well as to the Chesapeake Bay and the rocky coast of Maine.

In the 1880s Herzog began to visit Florida regularly. There bright yellows, sky blues, and cool greens entered his work, defining the sun-drenched, tropical environment.

Herzog did not exhibit his paintings much in his later years, though he continued to paint quite vigorously. After he began to reap the profits of his investment in Pennsylvania Railroad stock, he never sold another picture, a decision which removed the necessity of showing.5 Hundreds of his paintings thus have remained in the hands of his children and grandchildren until quite recently. His last exhibition, a joint show with his son Lewis, who was also a painter, was held at the Ferargil Galleries in New York, November 9 - 21, 1931. While the show was up Herzog celebrated his one hundredth birthday. Three months later he died at his home at 4104 Pine Street in West Philadelphia.

Herzog is a prolific painter who is known to have painted well over 1,000 canvases. He was not a recorder of specific places; rather his paintings are artistic experiments in capturing the changing effects of light and atmosphere and varieties of terrain. Cynthia Seibels

Philadelphia Press, March 15, 1885, as quoted in "Illustrated Catalogue of Paintings Works of Hermann Herzog to the Sold by Auction without Reserve on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Evenings April 25th, 26th, and 27th. . .at the American Art Galleries . . . .,"  American Art Association, 1888.

2Herzog's year of birth has repeatedly been given as 1832, but this would be incorrect, if his obituary that appeared in Art Digest  is accurate.  It states that he died on February 6, 1932, having celebrated his 100th birthday the previous November.  ("Herzog is Dead at 100, The Art Digest, vol. 6, no. 10, February 15, 1932, p. 8.)

3Herman Herzog, 1832-1932, American Landscape Painter, Baltimore, Md.: Phoenix Chase Galleries, n.d., p. 3.

4"Illustrated Catalogue of Paintings Works of Hermann Herzog to the Sold by Auction without Reserve on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Evenings April 25th, 26th, and 27th... at the American Art Galleries...., American Art Association, 1888.

5Phoenix Chase Galleries, p. 4.

6Ibid. and "Herzog is Dead at 100,"  The Art Digest, vol. 6, no. 2, February 15, 1932, p. 8.

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This essay is copyrighted by Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc. and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission.

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